As I continue on my path towards healing myself and embracing the concept of self-care, I find myself shuddering at the words “self-love”
What is self-love anyway?
(Get your mind out of the gutter, perv. Cuz my mind is there too)
I am just not ready to say that I love myself.
Everything in me seems to protest against that simple act of loving myself.
But I try to anyway.
I try to wake up in the morning and say it to myself (silently – in my head. I am not a fucking lunatic.)
I try to say it as I try to squeeze into the jeans that still don’t fit.
I try to say it as I try to tuck the fat from my muffin top into the waistband of my jeans.
I try to say it as I put on the brightly colored unflattering leggings that I still want to wear when running.
I love myself
I love myself
I do. no… really.
I totally do.
I feel like I am swimming upstream and going against everything I believe in trying to commit this one small thing. To love myself. It is like forcing myself to believe that Scientology is a legit religion and that Trump could maybe be an excellent president and not a racist bigoted fascist.
Since I am a social media/internet junkie, I often see this quote on various platforms:
I am normally not pulled in by all of those foo-foo lovey dovey peace love and unicorn fart kind of quotes that tend to go viral out there, but this one I do love. It is SO damned true.
Go and tell someone that you love yourself. Try it out as an experiment. Because – I am willing to bet the response will be a politely frozen smile with a slow blink. And that is the best case scenario.
I could tell people that I have devoted my life to tossing kittens off a cliff, and I will not be met with as much judgment as I would if I told them I have devoted my life to loving myself. Yes – it is out there in quotes. There are a billion Pinterest boards with quotes all about loving yourself. You see those messages in ad campaigns with gorgeous women wearing no makeup telling you to be brave and be you. Nature and beauty and self-love are catch phrases for everything. You will no doubt continue to see them in clothing ads with girls who don’t smile and guys rocking man-buns. Instagram accounts where women in stunning yoga pants are balancing on 3 fingers with their gorgeous legs twisted in a pretzel with a sunset in the background telling you to just let go and let love guide you through this amazing universe. Yet – tell someone “Know what? I love myself!” and it is met with so much opposition – by others – and you can hear them thinking “How DARE you love yourself? Who the FUCK do you think you are?” Even if you said it without arrogance. Even if you said it with an understanding that you are still a work in progress and you are not done growing and evolving and giving and doing. People have a visceral reaction when exposed to another’s self-love. I remember when I was in 5th grade attending a private school in Manhattan. There was this girl named Cindy in our class.
Cindy was quiet, and insanely intelligent.
The kind of intelligent where she never had to do one damn thing to become intelligent – the information just seeped into her pores and came out in eloquent statements when it was her turn to speak after she quietly raised her hand and waited patiently to be called on.
She just melted all the teachers into puddles of goo.
I, of course, was the opposite of Cindy. I was loud and fidgety. I was only quiet when I stared out the window. If I did try to answer a question I would blurt it out without raising my hand and it would be completely wrong. I cried easily. I got into fights with kids. I was always sent out of the room to stand in the hallway for being disruptive in one way or another.
I was a hot mess. I was dumpy and awkward. My mother parted my hair down the middle and clipped each side close to my head with sturdy tortoise colored barrettes. She would also spank me and yell at me in front of my school. She picked loud arguments with my classroom teachers and my principal. Rarely were these arguments grounded in any semblance of reality. They usually erupted when it was recommended that I maybe talk to the school psychologist or social worker.
I was the crazy lady’s kid. Every school has one. And anyone who knows anything about how school works knows that nobody ever likes the crazy person’s kid. At the most they may feel sorry for that kid – but only if the kid is well behaved and adorable.
Suffice it to say – I was not well behaved.
And I certainly was not adorable.
Now – Cindy was not a good looking kid, but she had this aloof dignity to her that was very mature for an 11 year old. She was no “goody-goody”. She just seemed like a grown woman in a lot of ways. Plus – she did not dress at all in the 80s trends at the time. She dressed in old lady pastel pant suits and had a sensible hair cut. She was a little doughy and plain. No one really bothered her though because she stayed off everyone’s radar. And intelligence was valued in our elite school.
I’m not going to lie.
Her existence kind of annoyed the shit out of me.
I didn’t know why at the time. She kept to herself. She was one of the only girls in the class that wasn’t a bitch to me. But, looking back – it was clear that I was insanely jealous of her. At the time, I never could have even registered why I would be jealous of an unattractive girl who dressed poorly when there were so many pretty, bubbly, skinny girls around me who all the boys had crushes on. I guess it made sense for me to hate those girls. I had a lot of reason to be jealous of the perfect girls around me. My mother would point those girls out to me and say things like “Isn’t she pretty? Don’t you wish you were skinny enough to wear a cute dress like that?”
(Ohhhhhh – just wait. I am simply scratching a layer here. My mother was a piece of work. Spoiler alert: I stopped speaking to her completely about 15 years ago.)
But Cindy? It didn’t make sense. My mother never pointed to Cindy.
Yet… To this day – out of all the kids I went to school with, she is the one who stands out the most. Her face. Her quiet voice. Her ugly polyester pants suits that no one our age ever wore. I remember it all. And I can’t even remember if I fed my dog on most days and now he is obese because I wind up feeding him 8 times a day as a result.
But Cindy. Cindy I remember.
I remember her because I was a fucking cunt to her, and she will never know it. One other girl I do remember and was legitimately jealous of – Melina – was the “IT” girl of 5th grade. Her parents were billionaires. She wore short shorts in gym and all the boys stared at her legs (ew – we were in FIFTH grade – WHAT were they even looking at???? Ew – never mind – I don’t wanna know) and had a cute short bob that didn’t make her look like Chunk from Goonies like a bob on my head would have gone down at that age. It just bounced around perfectly. SHE bounced around perfectly. Fucking Melina. Even in all her sexy, skinny, prepubescent glory, she once kicked my fat ass. But she was the kind of kid who would make me believe she was my best friend the very next day. She was a Mean Girl before Regina George was a thing. And I was a hungry puppy looking for acceptance and friendship from anyone who had a hand to smack me around with. I was the perfect fodder for a creature like Melina. During a week where Melina was my “bestie” (meaning she snapped her fingers and I herded around her like a buffalo chasing a gazelle), she shared with me in the girls’ bathroom something horrific she found out about Cindy. Cindy had the audacity to LIKE herself. Can you IMAGINE??? “I asked her – ‘Cindy – do you like yourself?'” Melina recalled with wide eyed disbelief, “And she nodded YES!” Melina went on. “And THEN I asked her ‘Cindy… Do you think you are GREAT?’ – and she nodded and said YES!” Shut the FRONT door. I was as shocked as Melina.
Cindy LIKED herself and thought she was GREAT?
How COULD she?
The nasty thoughts began to worm their way into my twisted, sad little mind.
She was UGLY.
And she wore UGLY clothes. She just sat there being smart and she thought she was so great. Teachers were impressed by her and all of a sudden she is miss fucking la-di-da I am so PERFECT.
“And THEN…” Melina flounced her perfect little bob around, her beautiful little face all aghast and overwhelmed by the depth and weight of what Cindy dared to think of herself…
“I asked Cindy ‘Cindy – do you think you are PERFECT?’ and…. she just stood there nodding and saying YES!”
Now that was just the last goddamned straw.
Come on… PERFECT?
Really, Cindy – you’re PERFECT?
I could not wrap my head around it. Now…. If a grown-up me were to stand there and talk to a little, 5th-grade me, I would put my grownup hand on my chubby kid shoulder and say “Now now, little 5th grade me. This isn’t about Cindy. This is about YOU not thinking you are good. Or great. Or perfect. So slow your roll with taking it out on poor, quiet little Cindy because you are jealous of the fact that she can appreciate who she is as a person, and you are a miserable little brat who has never had anyone show you that you are worth something. Give it 30 years or so, kid, and you’ll stop hating the Cindys of the world and start thinking about throwing a little love your way. Also – take those fucking barrettes out of your hair, dorkass.” But – there was no grownup me standing there. As a matter of fact, I rarely had a grownup ANYONE ever standing next to me telling me I was worth a good goddamned (except for my grandma – but I didn’t see her enough to bust through the foundation being cemented down on daily basis). As a result of who I was, and who Cindy dared to think she was, the anger in me bubbled and simmered. Cindy sat next to me in school. Not by choice. We had assigned seating and I’m pretty sure it was the product of the geometric calculations of a conscientious teacher who knew with laser precision who to seat next to whom so that the talkers didn’t all flock together and disappear into ADHD land. So, our teacher sat me next to boring-assed, silent, perfect little smart Cindy in her ugly pastel pant suits with matching jackets.
And, sitting next to Cindy, I hatched an evil plan to get back at her.
One day, I surreptitiously decided to take my blue ball point pen, and scribble on the part of her jacket that hung over her chair while she was sitting there – rapt in the lesson, immersed so deeply, she didn’t even notice. I felt so proud of myself – secretly scribbling on her pale puke-pink colored polyester jacket as she sat there being perfect thinking perfect thoughts and being perfectly intelligent and believing she was perfect and great and wonderful.
I sat and focused on her jacket instead of focusing on the lesson the way she was, and I accomplished something that day. I destroyed something of Cindy’s. And, yes, it made me feel better.
I did it a few other times after that.
I scribbled on her pale lemon-yellow jacket.
I scribbled on her powder-blue jacket.
I continued with my destructive ways on Cindy’s unsuspecting clothing.
One day, I looked down at her puke-pink jacket.
I had my pen cocked and aimed, ready to roll. Blinded by this dedication to my mission.
And then I saw it. And my heart sank.
I saw my faded pen stains from a previous attack. They were scrubbed, but not completely gone. There they were – permanently on her pink jacket. Somebody – maybe her, maybe her mother, but somebody saw those stains and tried the best they could to get rid of them. And they couldn’t. And she still wore her jacket with those marks. The marks that I made because I had an issue with this quiet little girl who kept to herself and did what she was supposed to do in school and did not have the capacity for self-hatred. And even if she did – she kept it to herself and didn’t feel the need to share it with the Melinas of the world.
And I had some kind of problem with that.
I wanted to love myself and have Melina like me and have the teachers like me and maybe give me a grade above a C once in a while. I wanted my mom to take me to a mirror and point to ME and say – “Look how friggen gorgeous my beautiful daughter is. Look at yourself! You are perfect.”
I needed my own mother to give ME a reason to say “Hell YEAH Melina – know WHAT? I love myself too and I think I am PERFECT too so go fuck yourself with your cute little bob and sexy fucking legs you shouldn’t even have because you are like 10 or 11. Go the fuck away. And leave Cindy alone too you fucktard.”
But I didn’t.
I retreated deep into my bitter, angry little bubble of destruction and tried to ruin the one thing about Cindy I could reach. And it did reach her. I imagined her looking at her jacket and wondering why this kept happening. How could she do all the right things all day and still wind up with her clothing ruined?
I was too young and immature yet to recognize that when you are hurting, you do hateful things. And, when you hurt and do hateful things, you continue to hurt and hate yourself. The cycle just escalates.
I was too young and angry and hurt and hateful to know that no matter what I tried to destroy around me, I would just destroy myself even more. I would just sink deeper and deeper into the sinkhole of suck.
But – how could I know this? I had no one teaching me.
I was my only teacher at the time, and I learned by trial and error and it did not always go well. But that day, those scrubbed pen stains woke me up to my own ugliness inside my ten year old heart. It was then, at that moment, that I became aware of the emptiness that needed to be filled with something.
And it wasn’t going to be filled by taking down Cindy and her godawful pastel polyester pantsuits.
Cindy – who dared to commit the horrific crime of loving herself.
Cindy – who I realized right then and there only owned 3 of those godawful polyester pant suits.
And that was about it.
3 ugly pant suits. Her brilliance. And her self-love.
I wish I could say that was the moment that changed me for good and propelled me forward, but anyone reading this probably already knows that’s not the way this works.
However, it did change me a little and put me in kind of the direction where I eventually did start propelling myself forward.
And I guess that is how things really do work.
But, when I think of self-love, somewhere in my psyche I guess I still harbor some little asshole scribbling away at a part of me with a pen.
I am sorry, Cindy.
I am sorry, me.